Yesterday, on an 11-4 vote, Houston City Council approved a $35 million contract for outreach to Harvey victims that included $6.7 million set aside for legal fees to Barnes & Associates, formerly Barnes & Turner. To put that number in some perspective, it is a little less than half the annual budget for the City’s entire legal department, which has 116 employees.* According to its website, Barnes & Associates has four lawyers.**
Here is how the Council Members voted:
We know that the roughly $1 billion in relief funds the City will receive will be woefully inadequate to meet all the needs of those who did not have flood insurance or other resources with which they could repair their homes. Every dollar the City spends on administrative costs is one less dollar that will actually go to help someone with their repairs.
Outreach is an important component to our recovery. But this function could have been done at a fraction of this cost, and certainly without spending $6.7 million on legal fees.